Monthly Archives: May 2012

Teachers’ perceptions of citizenship and citizenship education: A comparative study (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

This study examines citizenship Education policy and practice as they are perceived by teachers in three different societies—the United States, England, and Hong Kong. Through a secondary analysis of the teacher data in Civics Education Study (CIVED), conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), it identifies similarities and differences in teachers’ beliefs and perceptions of citizenship, citizenship education, their professional preparation for their work as civic teachers, and their teaching practices. Six research questions have guided this investigation which was grounded on the literature of models of citizenship and of global vs. national cultural factors affecting education systems. The findings reveal strong consensus among teachers in the three countries suggesting that civics education matters a great deal for students’ political development and for their countries. Teachers, also, in the three countries, do not demonstrate a great deal of differentiation among the citizenship models and categories prescribed in the literature. For the teaching practices, the study presents that indirect teacher-centered methods dominate civics education classrooms, and that political socialization in the form of knowledge transmission is the most emphasized objective in these countries’ schools. The study concludes with recommendations to education policy-makers to consider teachers’ suggestion of the need to improve the quality of civics materials and sufficient training. The study, also, suggests diversifying the data of the future IEA studies in civics by incorporating qualitative and quantitative data that aim to explain the process of teaching and learning, and the educational outcomes as well. Finally, it recommends that cross-national studies need to consider and theorize as much about similarities and common features among various educational systems as they currently do for the differences among these systems. Also, it suggests a need to develop a more inclusive theoretical framework of citizenship.

How communication and sensemaking in an academic community of practice affects individuals’ professional identities (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

This dissertation explored how individual characteristics of members, communication patterns, relative power, and collective sensemaking about the concept of Teaching-as-Research in a community of practice influenced any changes in members professional identities. Teaching-as-Research involves using methods similar to those used in research hypothesizing, implementing, analyzing, and modifying) to develop and apply teaching strategies. The case study involved thirteen instructors of undergraduates in a science department at a research university participating in an academic community of practice. Weicks theory of sensemaking 1993, 1995) provides the theoretical foundation for this study. Major concepts in the conceptual framework include individual characteristics, professional identity, community of practice, and sensemaking, both individual and collective. The study proposes relationships among these concepts, and explores how, over time, they interact to effect changes in the professional identities of individual instructors. The three research questions that are addressed include 1) How do the individual characteristics of participants in the community of practice, including rank, gender, ethnicity, experience and their professional identities affect communication within the community of practice; 2) How do characteristics of the community of practice, including norms, values, relative power of members, and the topics and types of communication, influence individual and collective sensemaking; and 3) How, if at all, are the professional identities of individual members modified by individual and collective sensemaking about a concept new to the community of practice? Data collection involved interviews and observations. Initial interview questions focused on the individuals personal characteristics, professional identities, and the characteristics of the group. Twelve sessions of the community of practice were observed, and during one of these sessions, members were introduced to the concept of Teaching-as-Research by an outside speaker. Final interviews elicited information about individuals identity as a teacher, researcher, and integrated professional. Individuals were asked to define the term “Teaching-as-Research” during both interviews. In the final interviews, participants were also asked to discuss their opinions about how discussing the concept of Teaching-as-Research affected the community of practice as a whole. Communication utterances were coded according to topic and type of communication as well as rank, gender, ethnicity, and experience. Data analysis involved construction of a profile for each participant, including their personal characteristics, perceptions of themselves as professionals, perceptions of the group process, and who they considered influential. Individual profiles also included summaries of communication patterns, including percent of contribution to total communication and percent of own communication by type and topic. Any changes in the participants professional identities were ascertained from responses to identical questions during both the first and final interviews and then compared to observations of changes in their participation in the group over the duration of the study. Interviews were analyzed for individuals perceptions about norms, values, communications, power, and sensemaking in the community of practice. Findings from this study related individual characteristics to participation in the community of practice; nature of participation to relative power within the community of practice; nature of group communication to collective sensemaking; and sensemaking to self-reported changes in professional identity. First, instructors in the midst of their careers participated more actively than those who were at the beginning or near the end of their careers. Second, instructors who were at their highest academic rank participated more actively in the community of practice than those members who were emeritus faculty members or tenure-ineligible. Third, an individual in a community of practice who initiated and contributed new conversations more than other members informally set the agenda by influencing which topics were discussed within the group. Fourth, collective sensemaking was more likely to occur when members of the group believed they needed to make and justify a decision. Finally, even though no consensus emerged from collective sensemaking about Teaching-as-Research, introduction to, and discussion of the concept encouraged individual sensemaking about the topic which led to self-reported change in professional identity among a majority of participants. Those individuals who indicated they experienced some change in their professional identities because of conversations about Teaching-as-Research talked about the personal impact for them. Those who stated that the discussions about Teaching-as-Research had no effect on their professional identities did not talk about a connection between the concept and their teaching. Based on these findings, the research discusses implications and future research. For administrators who are trying to get a group of faculty members to adapt the concept of Teaching-as-Research, opportunities should be provided for the group to engage in collective sensemaking about the concept; e.g., the group should be encouraged to develop and commit to a plan of action that they can share explicitly and publicly.

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CATEGORIES: Education Papers

Sustainable agriculture and the perceptions of high school agriculture teachers in the North Central Region of the United States (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

The debate about the socio-Economic and Environmental challenges associated with conventional Agricultural systems in the U.S.A. in the 1980s vis-a-vis sustainable agriculture (SA) has included the definition of SA, the role of Education in addressing the challenges and what should be taught about SA in high school and beyond. Proponents of SA claim Education about SA can facilitate solutions to the current problems in agriculture, stimulate rural Economic development and enrich scientific teaching of SA (Feldman, 1999; Sanstone, 2003/2004). The purpose of this study was to identify the beliefs of high school agriculture teachers about SA, and determine if any relationship about beliefs and the extent teachers teach SA exists. A random sample of 844 teachers in the North Central Region (U.S.A.) was sent questionnaires with 5-point Likert-type scales. Cronbach’s coefficients for the instrument ranged from .74-.95. Teachers agreed to concepts about SA and taught selected topics in SA to a moderate extent. There was a positive but negligible association between teachers’ beliefs about SA and the extent to which teachers taught selected topics in SA. Beliefs about SA uniquely explained no variance in the extent teachers taught selected SA topics controlling for the demographic variables. Teacher perceptions about SA practices influence minimally but significantly the extent teachers teach selected topics in SA. Selected topics that teachers rated highest (p< 0.5) regarding the extent to which these topics were taught included: soil testing, crop rotation, food safety, water quality, and use of animal manure. Teachers taught to a relatively high extent topics related to ecological and Social dimensions of SA as compared to topics with economic dimensions. Topics that teachers taught and rated lowest in the extent to which these topics were taught included: row banding of herbicides, narrow strip intercropping, and use of nitrification inhibitor. Results of this study indicated that agriculture teachers in the North Central Region do not include much about SA in their curriculum. Further investigations into the barriers regarding infusion of sustainable agriculture into the curriculums would help explain what is required to enhance instruction in this subject matter area.

The effects of dramatic activities on reading comprehension of senior high school EFL students in Taiwan (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

This study investigated the impact of dramatic activities on the English reading comprehension of EFL eleventh graders in Taiwan. The dramatic activities were developed within existing themes in the EFL classroom. In addition, a drama contest for the experimental groups was held at the end of this study. This study utilized a quasi-experimental design. One-hundred and sixty-five students participated in this study. Experimental groups consisted of Group A and Group B, the control groups contained Group C and Group D. Teacher A and Teacher B gave English instruction to one experimental group and one control group. Students were exposed to 300-minutes of English instruction per week for eighteen weeks, for a total of ninety hours of class time. Data was obtained from 83 subjects in the experimental groups and 82 in the control groups. The two assessment instruments were a thirty-question reading comprehension test selected from GEPT reading comprehension practice examination and a seven-item questionnaire designed by the researcher. Data from this study led to the following findings: 1) dramatic activities increased reading comprehension for high-school students; 2) dramatic activities provided another effective way to learn the grammatical rules; 3) aside from the impact on reading comprehension, dramatic activities had a positive influence on other language skills such as listening, speaking, and writing; 4) dramatic activities motivated language learners; 5) subjects improved their self-confidence, and lowered the affective filter through dramatic activities; 6) drama created an atmosphere for cooperative and Social learning; 7) drama provided a rich, memorable physical context for learning and 8) dramatic activities not only provided an opportunity for the EFL learners to learn the four language skills simultaneously, but also helped realize the goal of CLT Communicative Language Teaching).

Civic education policy and practice in post-Soviet Estonia, from global influences to classroom practice (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West has invested billions of dollars to help post communist countries make the transition to democratic governance and free markets. One aspect of this effort is international assistance in the development of civic Education programs. This dissertation seeks to understand the dynamics of the Estonian civic Education policy landscape within its global context. Using qualitative research methods, special attention is paid to the flow of civic education materials, ideas or practices, as they make their way from international influences to classroom practice. Why arent international materials being adopted more readily in the classroom? The absence is over determined: there are so many contributing factors, that even the removal of several of them might not be sufficient for such influence to begin to appear. The international effort led by the American and European governments to persuade Estonia to adopt a day of Holocaust commemoration in schools epitomizes the difficulty in trying to influence education policy, particularly in the face of strong public opposition. Foreign groups did not have the level of cultural, linguistic or historical understanding necessary to engage people in Estonia effectively about the Holocaust. These gaps in understanding also afflicted cooperation between foreign specialists and government, NGO, and university officials in Estonia. Foreign partners were able to influence the shape of civil society organizations and the projects that were launched; yet their lack of sensitivity to the acute Economic pressures facing individuals in transition economies prevented them from structuring assistance in ways that both facilitated domestic cooperation or policy change, and ensured that the most appropriate and meritorious candidates were chosen to participate in projects. Domestic participants exercised the prerogative to redirect assistance in accordance with their own interests or concerns, and this often detracted from successful policy implementation. Research also revealed that the most significant factor affecting teachers practice of civic education is an overstuffed curriculum and a system of national exams in civics: teachers feel that there are few opportunities available for incorporating outside materials or active methods.

Digital material library: Thai indigenous materials and cultural perspectives in Thailand’s design education (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

This thesis concerns the socio-Economic impact of using indigenous Thai materials in Thailands university design curricula and design industry. An exploration of silk serves as a model for how to conduct a cultural investigation of an indigenous materials physical properties, manufacturing processes, symbolic meaning, and cultural functions. Using these four components of analysis, I constructed a digital material library for use as a supplementary tool to the design curriculum for King Mongut Institute of Technology, Ladkrabang KMITL). The library is a response to the ever-expanding use of digital technology in design Education and offers users an opportunity to learn and explore the importance of local materials in the Thai contemporary design industry. My research reveals that using local, indigenous materials can benefit export commodities as well as increase the level of awareness concerning traditional and local Thai crafts. This thesis suggests that learning about indigenous materials, such as handmade and machine-woven silk, is necessary for the Thai design industry to develop a product identity that is distinctly Thai and to remain competitive with the international export market. If traditional methods of local and rural crafts are studied, the developing contemporary Thai design identity will have a stronger connection to Thai lifestyle, culture, and Social structure. Therefore, the library is also designed to serve as an information center to provide information about indigenous materials to Thailands design industry.

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CATEGORIES: Education Papers

Knowledge sharing among professionals in three online communities (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

This dissertation describes an exploratory study of knowledge sharing among professionals in three online communities of practice—Nurse Practitioner listserv, a Web Developer listserv, and a Literacy Educator listserv. Data were gathered on the three online communities of practice through online observations and interviews. Results show that the most common type of activity performed by members of each community was sharing knowledge. Regarding the types of knowledge shared, the most common one across all three communities was practical knowledge. In NP-1, the practical knowledge of institutional practice was most commonly shared; in both WD-1 and LE-1, personal opinion made up the bulk of practical knowledge shared. Regarding motivations for knowledge sharing, findings suggest that in all three communities, the majority of frequent knowledge sharers were motivated by multiple rather than single motivators for sharing their knowledge. Overall across the three communities, the following eight motivators were found: collectivism, reciprocity, personal gain, respectful environment, altruism, technology, interest of seeker, and outspoken personality. Regarding barriers for knowledge sharing, findings suggest that overall across the three communities, the following nine barriers were found: no new knowledge to add, unfamiliarity with subject, competing priority, technology, arrogant attitude, confidentiality, not wanting to cause a fight, work-in-progress, and knowledge seeker perceived as unable to utilize knowledge. Overall, the number of motivators, number of barriers, number of years of experience, and duration of membership in listserv did not appear to explain the variation of the amount of knowledge shared by the more and less frequent sharer groups in all three communities. However, the type of motivators and type of barriers might explain the variation of the amount of knowledge shared by the two groups. The number of years of working experience showed an overall significant negative relationship with the number of motivators. Practical and theoretical implications for knowledge sharing in online communities of practice were discussed, along with some recommendations for future research.

The Man in the Principal’s Office: Revisiting Harry Wolcott’s research during an era of increased complexity and high stakes accountability (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

The purpose of this study was to revisit Harry Wolcotts classic qualitative case, The Man in the Principals Office, and explore how a principal conceptualizes and enacts his role in an era of high stakes accountability. Specifically, case study and ethnographic methods were combined with a phenomenological lens to inquire into the lived experience of one elementary school principal, Tom Smith. Data collection consisted of phenomenological and dialogical interviews and participant observation. During analysis, data were coded and categorized thematically using a four-step phenomenological process. This process consisted of epoche, phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, and a synthesis of meanings and essences. In total, blending the researchers and participants perceptions strengthen the trustworthiness and credibility of this study, and allowed a composite picture of the experience to come into focus. As a result, to report the findings the researcher used a three-story framework of 1) Who I am, 2) What I do, and 3) Where we are going to identify the underlying meaning driving Toms leadership. The Who I Am story identifies how the principals core leadership beliefs and attitudes were shaped by his life experiences. Results indicate that much of Toms leadership beliefs emerged from his own lived experience of building relationships with colleagues. In particular, his core beliefs center on his metaphor of “lubricating the human machinery” to improve the lives of teachers and students. The What He Does story outlines what the school administrator does as he leads his school in an era of high stakes accountability. This story revealed how the school leader enacted the metaphor of “lubricating the human machinery” in his practice by caring for and personally investing in his faculty in three overlapping ways: 1) buffering his staff from anxiety associated with teaching in an era of high stakes accountability; 2) nurturing his staff; and 3) promoting teacher professional growth. Lastly, in the Where Are We Going story I use model for leading in a culture of change as a theoretical framework and discuss how Toms actions help build capacity and subsequently foster a shared vision within his school community.

Bilingual education and voter intent: Colorado 2002 (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

This exploratory study examines the voting intent and attitudes of 300 registered Colorado voters toward Amendment 31, which had been designed to replace bilingual Education with sheltered English immersion in Colorado public schools. The analysis identified several variables as being statistically associated with the voters’ attitudes toward the amendment, including political party and ideology, gender, level of Education, the voters’ knowledge of foreign languages, and their attitudes toward other language policy issues in the U.S. The data indicate that attitudes toward language policy issues are highly complex, and an analysis of responses to an open-ended prompt confirmed that these voters’ attitudes were often based in part on multicultural and/or assimilationist ideology in addition to pedagogical, legal, and financial concerns, and concerns about students’ success in life. The voters in this study, including those opposed to bilingual Education, were generally in favor of personal and societal multilingualism that do not interfere with national unity. The results of this study are useful for language planners and policy makers as well as language education researchers.

The effectiveness of using cooperative learning to promote reading comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency achievement scores of male fourth- and fifth-grade students in a Saudi Arabian school (Education Papers posted on May 10th, 2012 )

This study examined the extent to which the use of cooperative learning in the Islamic Saudi Academy ISA) in Washington, DC had an impact on the reading performance of grade four and five students in the standard reading curriculum. The ISA is a bilingual English-Arabic school with dual American and Saudi Arabian curricula. The Arabic language arts including reading) and religion curricula follow the Saudi Arabian Education system, while the remaining curricula such as math and science reflect the American Education system. The study used a quasi-experimental design. Four groups of ISA male students participated in the study: two fourth grade classes, and two fifth grade classes. The researcher developed and administered pre- and post-measures for reading performance, which designed vocabulary, reading comprehension, and fluency. Additionally, the researcher administered pre- and post-measures of students attitudes toward cooperative learning and students motivation toward reading. Students from both grades and both treatment conditions received all pre- and post-measures. Finally, the researcher developed and administered measures of teachers attitudes toward cooperative learning. Data were analyzed using a one way analysis of variance ANOVA) to test the differences between the experimental and comparison groups on the pre-measures. Results of this analysis indicated no significance difference between experimental and comparison groups for all measures. For the post-measures, the pretests served as a covariate, where grade and treatment were independent variables, and the post-measures were the dependent measures. The results of this analysis indicated significance differences between experimental and comparison groups on post-measures of vocabulary and fluency, and students attitudes toward cooperative learning. Conversely, the result showed no significant difference between experimental and comparison groups on post-measures of reading comprehension and students motivation toward reading.